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Arizona Strip Breccia Pipe Program: Exploration, Development, and Production

I. W. Mathisen, Jr.

As part of the long-range plans for the Energy Fuels Corporation, we have embarked on one of the most active and aggressive uranium exploration programs in the United States. These exploration efforts are located in the northwestern part of Arizona in an area referred to as the Arizona Strip.

At a time when the domestic uranium industry is staggering to recover from its worst economic slump, Energy Fuels is spending millions of dollars a year on exploration, development, production, and milling.

The reason for Energy Fuels' commitment to uranium exploration and production lies in the ground of Arizona in unique geologic formations called breccia pipes. Some of these structures, generally no more than 300 to 350 ft in diameter, contain uranium that is, on the average, five to ten times richer than ore found elsewhere in the United States. The richness of this Arizona ore makes it the only conventionally mined uranium in the United States that can compete in today's market of cheaper, high-grade foreign sources.

Between January 1980 and December 1986, Energy Fuels has mined more than 10 million lb of uranium from breccia pipe deposits at an average grade of 0.65% U3O8.

Currently, Energy Fuels is operating six breccia pipe mines, and a plan of operations on a seventh mine has been submitted to the appropriate government agencies for the necessary mining permits.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91038©1987 AAPG Annual Convention, Los Angeles, California, June 7-10, 1987.